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Start a School Honor Council in Four Easy Steps

The establishment of an Honor Council within educational institutions plays a vital role in upholding the values of integrity, fostering a safe learning environment, and promoting responsible citizenship among students.

Before we get to the steps of creating an Honor Council, here are some Frequently Asked Questions about the Honor Council.

What is an Honor Council?

An honor council supports a school’s mission and vision and takes all students into account, even those who don’t fit the ethos. Remembering that students are feeling and communicative beings and some may be inspired by a different honor code. Those students need to be reflected in the systems that schools provide for students.

Honor Council in elementary, middle, and high schools and college look very different. How much authority they actually have or even need isn’t important, but the idea that student input is valued and warranted is. Traditionally, Honor Council is a student group that hears and decides cases of academic fraud, integrity violations, bullying, stealing, and lying.

What is the Purpose of the Honor Council?

The purpose of the Honor Council is to uphold the values that create a safe learning environment, respect the rights of others, acknowledge diversity, and supports students in repairing the harm that’s been generated by the actions of some. The Honor Council ensures that every student is held to high standards of integrity and that student ideas are sacred and protected.

Who makes up the Honor Council?

The Honor Council is made up of students and faculty moderator(s). The number of students depends on the school, size, and purpose. Most schools have between eight to twelve students that comprise the main body of the council with two alternates. The alternates may or may not have voting rights unless one of the members is absent, but sits in on hearings and is allowed to give input.

What constitutes a violation of the Honor Code?

Usually, any breach of academic fraud, ranging from cheating on tests, or copying someone else’s homework, to more serious acts like plagiarism. Students that bully and harass, get into physical or verbal disputes, technology-related issues, and other behavior that threatens the community are also considered code violations and reported to the Honor Council.

Who can refer a student to the Honor Council?

Any faculty or student can submit An Honor Council referral (see below for a sample referral form).

HONOR COUNCIL REFERRAL Student Name ________________________________Homeroom ___________________ Student Name ________________________________Homeroom ___________________ Referred by __________________________________ Date ________________________ Reason for Referral_________________________________________________________ ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- (For Honor Council Use Only) Notes from Student

Conference_________________________________________________ Recommended Consequences ________________________________________________


What happens when a student is referred to the Honor Council?

Students that attend the Honor Council usually come willingly. Many have already admitted to the wrong-doing and it is a way of reintegrating students back into the school community. Some students, however, see it as an opportunity to plead their case when they themselves feel they have been wrongly accused. There have been instances when more information becomes evident through the investigation process, and students feel that they have been heard and have been through a fair process.

Once a referral has been made, students are notified by the principal or honor council designee that he/she is required to attend the Honor Council. The Honor Council investigates the school violation by asking the restorative questions:

· What happened?

· What were you thinking or feeling at the time?

· Who has been affected by your actions?

· What will you do to repair the harm your actions have caused?

How does the Honor Council make a decision about a case?

In most schools, especially in primary and secondary schools, the Honor Council can only make recommendations for consequences. Suspension or expulsion is not in the realm of their authority. The offending student has an opportunity to also make a recommendation about how to repair the harm. The Honor Council may recommend that the student do more.

Recommendations include a written apology, a restorative circle, and/or a service that is appropriate given the infraction, like cleaning the classroom if a student is being investigated for throwing trash on the floor or removing graffiti around the school for marking up the bathroom.

What is the Faculty Moderator’s Role?

The faculty moderator guides the process but does not participate in the conference. The moderator’s main role is to onboard council members and prepare the council to hear cases. Once the Honor Council has been chosen, they should attend a half-day workshop learning about how to lead meetings with students (See step 4, On-Boading Honor Council Members on pages 5-6 of this document).


Step 1. Create a Vision/Mission Statement

The Honor Council vision/mission statement should personify the school’s values (see a sample vision/mission statement below).

The Mission of the Honor Council states: As a member of (school name) community, my goal is to create an environment of good citizenship by demonstrating respect, trust, and responsibility. I will encourage citizenship by promoting leadership, appreciation of individual differences, respect for others, compassion, and ethical behavior. Honesty and integrity are at the heart of our mission. As a member of (school name), I pledge to be respectful of others and their property, value my teammates, and treat others the way I myself want to be treated. I will accept responsibility for my actions, and I will be honest in my daily work and conduct.

Step 2. Choose Honor Council Members

Some schools choose to elect honor council members while others have more of a vetting process that involves peer nominations and faculty recommendations (see sample nomination form below).

HONOR COUNCIL NOMINATION FORM Thank you for your interest in the (school name) Honor Council! Honesty and integrity are at the heart of the mission. The goal of the (school name) Honor Council is to create an environment of good citizenship by demonstrating respect, trust, and responsibility. Please nominate a student that you think would make an outstanding contribution to (school name) Honor Council. This student should be an example of someone who represents (school name) values of (name the values here). I would like to nominate _________________________________ because __________

Step 3. Notify Students and Parents/Guardians.

The chosen students receive an invitation letter sent to both student and parent/guardian to join the honor council (see sample letter below).

Dear (student and parent/guardian), I am pleased to announce that (student name) has been selected to serve on the (school name) Honor Council. Students were nominated by their peers and selected by the faculty. Students on the Honor Council must be in good academic standing, and are exemplars of the school’s values. Honesty and integrity are at the heart of the mission. The goal of the (school name) Honor Council is to create an environment of good citizenship by demonstrating respect, trust, and responsibility. Congratulations! School Leader’s Signature

Step 4. Onboard Students

Sample Topics

  • Describe Honor Council

  • Describe the mission statement (in your own words)

  • Discuss Integrity (what does it mean and why is it important?)

    • “Doing the right thing, all the time, no matter what the consequences.”

    • “Not always doing what the popular thing is, but what the right thing is.”

  • Describe how Honor Council works and what it does

  • Describe the referral process

    • Who can make a referral?

    • Types of referrals

    • Brainstorm issues that might come up

  • Describe the conference

    • Role of the facilitator (rotating. The facilitator gets the student and brings him/her to the conference room, i.e.)

    • Ask the restorative questions to get as much information as possible.

      • What happened?

      • What were you thinking of at the time?

      • Who has been affected by your actions? How?

      • What do you think you need to do to make it right?

    • The student leaves the room for a few minutes while the Honor Council deliberates and discusses resolutions/consequences.

  • Practice: role-play scenarios:

    • Rotate playing the facilitator, the offender, and the observer.

    • Take notes on what the facilitator does well, and what they need to work on. Focus on leadership and speaking with confidence.

    • Discuss logical consequences

    • Debrief role play.

      • What was easy?

      • What was hard?

      • What consequences did people come up with?

    • Review tough situations.

      • What should we do?

      • What if we can’t reach an agreement?

      • What if a friend is sent to the Honor Council?

      • Any other tough situations you can think of?

  • Exit ticket. one big takeaway from today’s onboarding and one question you still have.

In conclusion, an Honor Council serves as a valuable tool in promoting integrity, student involvement, and the maintenance of a safe and inclusive learning environment. By following the steps outlined in this blog, educational institutions can establish an effective Honor Council that upholds the values of integrity, cultivates responsible citizenship, and supports the growth and development of all students.

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